When it’s Not Really Fruit or Vegetables

If I had just ten seconds to share nutrition advice, I know exactly what I would say: Eat more fruits and vegetables. And I don’t think that would surprise anyone. We all know that fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, rich in not only fiber but also phytonutrients, and everyone knows it’s a good idea to eat more of them. Especially since most of us don’t eat enough produce to begin with.

Now, the brand managers in the food industry know that we know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. This is why there are so many processed food items containing fruit-related words, or some version of the actual word “fruit.” Vegetables, too, to a lesser extent. Like vegetable oil. And which “vegetable” would that be, please?

Once you get past the produce section in the grocery store, you can still find “Froot” loops, fruit roll-ups, Tootsie frootie rolls! Fruity pebbles! Boo-berry (not blueberry), and so on. It’s the theatre of the not-really-fruit.

At various times in recent years, you could buy apple jacks, apple raisin crisp, apple zings, apple zingaroos, strawberry chex, apple cinnamon chex, cap’n crunch crunch berries, banana nut cheerios, berry burst cheerios, banana frosted flakes, bite-size frosted blueberry muffin, frosted mini-wheats strawberry delight, cranberry almond crunch, Fruit ’n Fibre, Fruit & nut granola cereal, honey bunches of oats with peaches, berry-berry six, for starters.

There’s also raisin bran, not to mention Total raisin bran, as well as apple cinnamon rice krispies, berry krispies, fruity marshmallow krispies, strawberry rice krispies, strawberry shortcake, Special-K Red Berries, Special K Fruit and Yogurt, and Total Cranberry Crunch. You get the picture. It’s one thing to eat a strawberry. But popping a frosted mini-wheats strawberry delight, with its fruity sounding name, is an entirely different experience. Not a strawberry. Perhaps a berry made from straw?

Fruit is food. Fruity-stuff is entertainment. In Weight Watchers, which considers fresh fruits and vegetables “free,” you can eat as many as you want, without having them cost against your daily point allotment. That’s not true of blueberry oat clusters, dear reader, and that should tell you everything.

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